Origin / History

Tracing the origins of Manzanilla requires going back more than 3,000 years in time.

To speak of Sanlúcar de Barrameda, or the entire Sherry Region for that matter, is to speak of one of the world’s oldest winemaking regions. An area strategically located with such abundant resources that many different civilisations have chosen to settle here over the centuries.

In Antiquity

The Phoenicians

Around 1000 BC, the Phoenicians came to the Iberian Peninsula and settled in the area, founding Gadir (ancient Cádiz) bringing grapevines with them. The wine they produced was well known throughout the Mediterranean and became “seafaring wines” in their own right, something which left a lasting imprint. The estuary of the Guadalquivir River was sacred to the Phoenicians and they built a temple here in honour of Astarte, the goddess of love and fecundity.

The Romans

The Romans would make vinum ceretensis which attained enormous popularity during the Roman Empire. Proof of this are the ancient amphora bearing the seal of origin from the area. According to historians, Ceret was not so much a city as an extensive area of land devoted to farming and winemaking, roughly the size of today’s Sherry Region. At that time, the mouth of Baetis River as it was known by the Romans, continued to be a sacred place and historians claim that the Luciferi Fanum (Temple of Shining Light) was built here, dedicated to the Roman goddess of fertility, nature and navigation, Venus.

The Muslims

With the arrival of the Arabs, Al-Andalus became a territory where the arts and sciences would play a leading role. Sanlúcar became part of the Cora de Sidonia (present-day Cádiz) and grape-growing continued, just like in other Muslim-ruled areas, for producing raisins and distilling alcohol to make perfumes and medicines. The Arabs were the first to introduce distillation by means of their copper-pot stills, a technique which would later prove to be key for something that arose later: the fortification process that characterises Manzanilla and Sherry Wines.

The Christians

With the Christian conquest, Sanlúcar and the surrounding areas became part of the Kingdom of Seville. This led to a level of wealth that a busy port offers and also opened the gateway to trading routes with Britain and Flanders.

Now that wine had become a standard trading commodity with Northern Europe and the Mediterranean, it was imperative to ensure it remained stable throughout the long, seafaring journeys. So, fortification became the means by which this stability could be attained and, to this day, fortification is key to the Manzanilla winemaking process.

Following the discovery of the New World, Sanlúcar would become a port of great importance.

Christopher Columbus set off from Sanlúcar on his third expedition, Magellan on his first sailing voyage around the world and Sanlúcar entered into an era of maximum economic splendour.

The Modern Age

Following the discovery of the New World, Sanlúcar became a port of great importance, the place where Christopher Columbus would set sail on his third expedition and Magellan departed on the world’s first seafaring voyage around the world, marking an age of economic splendour for Sanlúcar.

Sanlúcar became a strategic location for exports, colonisation and trade expeditions to the Americas and also the main river passageway to Seville. As such, Sanlúcar benefitted from ever-increasing value as a trading hub.

Wine from the region was considered essential to exporting activities, not only as a trading commodity but also as an indispensable provision for the ships’ crews during their voyages.

Throughout the 18th and 19th centuries, the demand for wines from the Sherry Region skyrocketed, thus attracting substantial foreign investment, mainly from the British Isles.

Contemporary History

In more recent times, the wine industry underwent important changes due to the introduction of new farming techniques, new grape varieties and new winemaking practices.

The late 18th century also bore witness to substantial variations on the market and in the wine industry as a whole, bringing about transformations that would prove to be real game-changers.

One of these changes, namely the criaderas y solera ageing system, arose from the need to supply the market with wines of a consistently stable quality.

We also find the first mention of Manzanilla being referred to as a wine during this period, in a Writ from the Cadiz Chapter House.

Thanks to Esteban Boutelou and his book, Memoria sobre el cultivo de la vid en Sanlúcar de Barrameda y Xerez de la Frontera. we know that in the early 19th century, Manzanilla was already being made much in the same way as today.

Sanlúcar also began exporting wine under the Designation Manzanilla, Bodegas Barbadillo being the first modern winery to ship Manzanilla to Philadelphia, in the United States of America.

This marked the beginning of a splendorous era in which monumental wineries were built. However, the momentum gained was abruptly halted by an untimely invader: phylloxera. The pest affected centuries-old vineyards and wiped out entire grape varieties.

In 1935, the Wine Act was passed and instated Manzanilla as part of the D.O. Jerez-Xérès-Sherry. However, it wasn’t until 1964 when D.O. Manzanilla-Sanlúcar de Barrameda Regulations would first be published.

Did you know?

The criaderas y solera ageing system

This is an ageing system unique to the Sherry Region, an area whose boundaries form a triangle, often referred to as The Sherry Triangle, formed by the towns of Sanlúcar de Barrameda, Jerez de la Frontera and El Puerto de Santa María.

This dynamic ageing process blends wines of different ages in such a way that the wine always maintains a stable set of characteristics and quality. This system arose in the 18th century after a surge in the demand for wines from the region and it became imperative to ensure consistency and stability.

Today, this ageing method is an indispensable part of Manzanilla’s winemaking process, lending the wine its singular characteristics.